Tea Parties – Not Just for Sarah Palin

When planning an upcoming, intimate, period themed event – say for a bridal shower, birthday party, or just because, consider having your party be a Victorian inspired high tea. Give me a chance to explain, they are fun, especially if you’re a history loving nerd like I am that likes to spend weekends watching dorky BBC documentaries. The history part of it is what makes it fun, it wouldn’t be as exciting to pull out some nice china, brew fancy loose leaf tea and wear a trendy romper or worse yet, leave the china in your grandma’s cabinet and drink tea out of styrofoam or Ikea, no that’s not what I’m talking about. The fun part is dressing the part and putting on the Downton Abby theme song while sipping tea out of antique tea cups.

For the wild and crazy kick off to my bachelorette party, my girlfriend treated me to a high tea at a cafe in a nearby town. The tea came complete with a lace table cloth and heated, raised tea pot with a lit candle underneath to keep it warm. We chose our selection of sandwiches that came out as triangles on tiered serving trays. There were little sweet treats on beautiful china. The other events of my bachelorette party were not nearly as reserved as my Victorian collared shirt of the high tea, but for two whole hours we were as proper as ladies of the house.

Somebody paid attention to my affinity for tea and history and planned a gorgeous tea bridal party. The bridal party was put on by my aunts and sister. The location could not have been more perfect – it was held on the wraparound porch of  my aunt’s fantastically restored Victorian brick house. There were five tables on the porch for guests with each one having  it’s own individual set of vintage china. My aunt had collected them at estate sales and second hand shops and she put them to good use for the tea party. She even IMG_3193made homemade cookies that so precisely resembled a real teabag that I had to double take at the teacups when I first walked on the porch to realized that they were edible. There’s a recipe here for similar cookies.

Tea parties are a nice  changes of pace to parties with alcohol because they’re generally quite and well mannered so conversation can be easily had. They cost less since alcohol doesn’t add to the cost of hosting, but they do require time to plan ahead. Things need to be collected, borrowed, or pulled out of cupboards. Hunting for the bargains and the sets with the most beautiful or unique patters is fun though, so the work ahead of time doesn’t feel like work at all. Our local thrift store often does 50% off of items if they’ve been in the store prior to a specific date, so it wouldn’t be uncommon to walk out of there with a four piece china set for around $5.

Of course the major benefit of using vintage items is that they’re real. No plastic forks, cups, or straws. Less waste and an appreciation for what was once very special items of the home. At my bridal tea party, my aunts took the zero waste even further than the teacups and saucers, they also put vintage table cloths on each table along with linen napkins. Some napkins had vintage lace napkin holders that added to the period theme. Another way to decrease waste would be to use teabags that do not have strings or labels, my favorite brand in the U.S. for that very reason of not messing with strings is Celestial Seasonings. A step beyond would be to get loose leaf tea in bulk in a reusable container brought in from home or even beyond that, to dry your own herbal teas from the garden, mint being my favorite and easiest.

Other ideas for your future tea party are to dress up for the occasion. Theme your tea party as Victorian like mine was or more modern such as the 1950’s. If you have it in the summer have some iced teas as well or instead of hot teas. If hosting a tea party seems like too much work then find a local cafe or bed and breakfast that hosts one. The tea that I went to was in Warren, PA at a cafe called The Arbor Coffee House (reservations are required for high teas in advance.) Make your tea party unique to you, try to create as little waste as possible, and remind yourself that tea parties are for grown ups (and men,) too.

 

DIY – Sustainable – Low-Budget Wedding

There are many reasons to want to have a low-cost and simple wedding, you may be loaded with student debt, don’t see yourself in a princess gown, or like us, need to rush things along for a foreign-fiance visa. If you are a bride or groom looking to save your pennies on your big day, then there are short-cuts that do not take away from the magic of the day. As just stated, my situation was that my foreign-fiance and I needed to tie the not in a three month time frame from his arrival on U.S. soil so that he could fulfill the requirements of his K-1 visa. We knew all of this after months and months of research and luckily neither of us are very fussy or uppity, so a shindig planned in a couple of weeks neither stressed us out or meant that we had to give up big dreams of violin quartets or three tiered cakes. We were however, quite stubborn about our special day being waste-free, ethical, and sustainable – meaning little waste, lots of second hand finds, and DIY.

Here are how we managed to make our Earth Day wedding as down to Earth and friendly to her as possible.

The Dress

18156349_1268217376630846_7658297236323043971_oI am no Bridezilla, but I know how important the dress is and after dress shopping with my mom and twin sister, I know now too just how fun and flattering wedding gowns can be, I cannot however, justify paying hundreds of dollars on a dress to be worn just once, especially not for the garden, civil ceremony that we had. Therefore, while my fiance was across the pond spending his nights researching immigration documents, I was browsing the internet for the perfect civil ceremony dress (don’t worry, I helped with the legal research, too!)

A company had been stuck in my mind since watching the eye-opening documentary, The True Cost, the company is People Tree, which I instantly fell in love with when I watched the film. They are a U.K. based, fair trade, and sustainable company. After browsing their site, I found the dress. A cream dress with a navy, red, and carmel floral print, boat neck, knee-length, vintage-style, organic cotton beauty. I shipped it to my beau, and tried it on for the first time a few months later after he landed here to be with me – and it fit! If you are planning a laid-back wedding or will be married with a civil ceremony, then looking at dress shops instead of bridal shops will save you hundreds of dollars. Thrift stores or a friend’s closet will cut the cost even more. My dress is of a much higher quality than most low-end wedding dresses (which are priced mostly for the “w” word,) because it’s made of a thick, organic cotton with strong stitches at the hem whereas many wedding dresses are of polyester and are likely made in factories in developing nations where the women who sew them together are not paid fair wages.

The Rings

My engagement ring is a family antique from my husband’s side, no blood diamonds for us! I can’t state how much I love the fact that the ring that began our lives together forever comes from his family history and not from a store (which really came from mining, which when you think about, is blowing up a mountainside in order to pry out it’s natural resources.) Not to mention, the idea of needing a diamond engagement ring is a relatively new one, women around the world got by without a shiny rock on their fingers for hundreds of years prior to the late 1940’s, but now it’s the norm – good for De Beers, not always so good for the savings accounts of young couples.

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My wedding band is likewise not from a big-name jewelers, instead it is from a smaller producer in California that I found on Etsy. My husband’s band is also from Etsy. They don’t match at all, but they are what each of us liked and they did not break the bank. In order to know my ring size for ordering I went to multiple jewelry shops to get sized, playing that I was browsing there, I then ordered from Etsy. The seller was quick to respond to my order and even asked when the date of our wedding was so that he could have it to me in time, which it was, and I only ordered it a few weeks before our Earth Day wedding. My ring came from this seller. Pictured is Freddie, practicing being ring-bearer with the pillow I had stitched him.

The Cake

I made it! Yes, it was slightly stressful to be making homemade frosting to then frost my chocolate, Greek yogurt cake with only two hours before walking down the aisle, but it was better, in my opinion, to make a healthy,  homemade cake than to make one from a box or get it from a shop. I used all natural ingredients and made it to out specific taste – rich chocolate. It must be said that making my cake myself was possible because I only expected a total of six people at my ceremony, that’s including the bride and groom. For a larger shindig it may not be so do-able, but a local bakery would be better than a grocery store if ethics and health is on your mind, however a grocery store cake would do just fine for a large crowd and a small budget.

I also made my cake topper which was Pinterest inspired. I used burlap ribbon, embroidery thread, and paper straws to hold it up. It was made with the same burlap ribbon I used to make my ring bearer’s pillow, so tied it all together, plus the colors matched the print of my dress. By making my cake and having a low key venue of my grandmother’s garden and kitchen, I was also able to ensure that our cake-cutting was absolutely zero-waste – no paper plates or plastic forks. (The cake topper we kept and it is now adorning one of our house plants.)

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Flowers

My mom and I researched wedding bouquets at local florists, but in the end I decided to go with a simple bouquet of tulips bought from a local grocery store. I would have liked to have supported a local florist for their skill and work, but it seemed to me that just like wedding dresses, wedding flowers are pricey because they are labeled to be for a wedding. The twelve tulips cost $12, the cheapest bouquet I could find online was around $40, and to make them fit in with our earthy theme I cut the wrapper down and wrapped twine around the stems. By the end of the ceremony they were very droopy, likely because they traveled in the car out of their vase, I suggest keeping your flowers in water as long as you can to avoid this.

The Groom

Rather than go out and buy a new suit or rent a tuxedo, my fiance wore khakis, a navy button up that matched my dress, and dress shoes which were all purchased from second hand stores; costing a total of roughly $10, but to be honest, that’s probably a high estimate. Everything that he wore he had bought prior to our engagement except for the shoes which we lucked upon about two weeks before the wedding. Yes, your wedding ceremony is a special event and a special day, but if you can come to terms with you and your groom wearing items already owned, then you can save yourselves hundreds of dollars.

There are many ways to save money on your wedding, especially if you have a civil ceremony with a low number of guests. Make your special day uniquely you by adding special touches that match you as a couple. Keep your eyes out in the months ahead at thrift stores and estate sales, or your friend’s and family members’ houses for items to borrow and return. May your civil ceremony be as romantic and cheap as mine, the two can definitely go hand in hand.

 

Teacher Tech Tools

Being a yoga teacher requires a lot of self promotion and preparation for classes. Whether you get yourself a regular gig at a yoga studio or go completely free lance you’ll have to self promote your classes, style, skills, and experience. And then once you get in the studio, you’ll have to deliver. Here are my top tech teacher tools to help you be the best yoga teacher you can be.

Blue Tooth Speaker

Invest in a good quality blue tooth speaker, one that’s light and transportable and that delivers on sound. These come in handy to bring with you to outdoor, public space classes where other options requiring plugging in may not be available, keep in mind however, that if you host class in a very public space or near to a busy road, then even the best blue tooth speaker won’t be heard over honking horns or screaming kids. If you teach on an early Saturday when the public space isn’t busy yet, then bring your speaker for added energy to the class. Chose your playlists wisely.

Actually, Let Someone Else Chose Your Playlist

When I first started teaching I used to stress out about making the perfect playlist for each class. Honestly, I would spend more time on the music than on the sequence. I was fixated on having the best tunes for the varying layouts of each class. Thankfully for my schedule and my nerves I’ve loosened up about my music. Now I rely on a sharing service to have strangers in cyber space chose what students vinyasa and hold to. My choice of music site is 8 tracks. I know most people in the U.S. use Pandora, but Pandora wasn’t available abroad in Korea, so a friend introduced me to 8 tracks and I much prefer it. My go to vinyasa flow playlist is simply titled: Yoga.

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Get some Great Graphics12010532_899109916831156_7065303320034350228_o

When creating a social media event page, photos generally star as an eye catcher or are just generic-googled yoga images. But it can be more fun and more professional to create a poster or well designed social media image for your classes and events. For this you can hire out a graphics designer by using 99designs, a website where designers line up to design for you after you’ve set guidelines and price, but this site can be pricey and may not be financially feasible for a free lancin’ yoga teacher (may in fact be a better option for a logo.) Another option is Pic Monkey. This site is easy to use and offers a lot of fun fonts and backgrounds, they have recently started charging for they’re services though, which is a bummer. Above is a simple graphic made in 2015 for a community event I co-hosted with a bunch of great activists in Busan using Pic Monkey.

There you have it, a few simple tips from me to you for using tech to get the job and in class once you have it. Teaching yoga involves a lot more than just shouting out a pose name. As a yoga teacher aim to make your classes and events special and memorable by meticulously planning from the get go all the way through to the song that plays in Savasana. Utilizing tech tools can aid you in achieving that goal which in the long run will aid you in retaining students.

 

Hosting a Plastic Free Event (and Why I Did It)

This post is about my first experience hosting a plastic free event. I did not do this alone, the organizers of the Busan Veggie Fest were amazingly proactive with my initial idea to go plastic free for their event, and did a lot of work. Initially I thought this would be a simple, short bulleted post  comparable with, but not as bad, as Buzzfeed, but it was impossible. I had to include the reasons why to host a plastic free event, because it’s not just something to do for fun. There is substance and ethics behind it. You have two options as a reader, you can jump to the bullet points and read the How-To’s, or you can read the post in it’s entirety.


Single-use plastic is everywhere. When I comb the beach for litter, I mostly collect cellophane wrappers, candy wrappers from individually wrapped candies, coffee cups (paper and plastic,) water bottles or other beverage containers, and straws.

That plastic that either comes in with the tide or goes back out with it, or is haphazardly dropped by a hand,  will be floating around the ocean for quite some time as it slowly photo-degrades, seeping out chemicals as it does so. An equally depressing result is that it will be consumed by marine life that mistakes the small, broken down plastic for food. If you’re no animal lover and could care less about flounder being discovered with plastic stomachs, then at least consider this – that plastic consumed by fish, will make its way through the food cycle straight onto your plate. Plastic is even being found in table salt. You can do your part by planning Plastic free Event and sharing why you did it.

Generally people planning parties find it more convenient to buy a box of plastic forks, some colorful paper plates, and those ubiquitous red cups for their guests to eat and drink from. I agree, it is easier to toss a box of plastic forks into the cart with ingredients for your food, but is it wise? Those forks might not make it to the recycling bin and instead go straight into the trash where they’ll take hundreds of years to go away. That fork that assisted food from your plate to your mouth for twenty minutes will take hundreds of years to go away. And recycling is nice and green, but it still uses a lot of energy to transport, process, and reproduce when the alternative would be to wash some forks in the sink.

That fork that assisted food from your plate to your mouth for twenty minutes will take hundreds of years to go away.

Ditch the straws and plastic forks and opt instead for what’s in your kitchen drawer. Here are some tips for planning a plastic free event.

  • PROMOTE – As you promote your event let everyone know that no single use plastics will be used, so they must B.Y.O.E., Bring Your Own Everything. Include this information in your invitations if you go old school with paper invites, or write a prominent description in the events page if you use social media.

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  • EXPLAIN – Although it wasn’t that long ago that plastics were nonexistent, the majority of the population has gotten used to the convenience of using plastic. It might seem odd to some guests to pour holiday punch into a coffee mug that they carted with them as opposed to filling up a red dixie cup, so be sure to let them know why you are making them do so. Once people learn or are reminded of the dangers of plastic pollution in the oceans, they will hopefully jump on board for your party (and carry the habit into their daily lives.)
Above: An informative display on the afterlife of plastic if disposed of improperly. The numbers are the estimated years it takes for such items to decompose. Photos are of a local beach, covered in PLASTIC LITTER FROM A TROPICAL STORM.
  • RECRUIT HELP – Ask like-minded friends to help you get the word out. My first attempt at a plastic free event would not have been possible without the help of the organizers of the Busan Veggie Fest. They let the providers of food know and even provided plates and supplemental utensils.
The amazing hosts of the Busan Veggie Fest did a beyond expected job of making the event plastic free.

The amazing hosts of the Busan Veggie Fest did a beyond expected job of making the event plastic free.

  • CONSIDER OPTIONS – If you have a kitchen with enough utensils, cups, and plates for all of your guests, then of course you would provide everything instead of asking your guests to B.Y.O.E. If you’re hosting a big event and do not have enough to go around, then do both: encourage guests to bring their own, but also bring extras for those that are uninformed or lack the materials.
  • BE KIND – It’s not us vs. them when it comes to environmentalism, it’s educating those who simply are unaware of the extremely negative impacts of single use plastics. Before public awareness and mass drives of knowledge, people used to smoke cigarettes without a care in the world, but once the science came out actions and laws changed. I’m saddened almost daily by the damage that human beings are causing the land, but I try to remain hopeful at the same time. If someone comes to your event with a fresh bottled water in their bag, don’t scorn them or even double take. In order to get your point across to everyone give a small talk about why you chose to make your event plastic free, and/or create an informative display or poster, hopefully inspiring the water bottle holders to go to their local thrift store and look for a tumbler.

Best of luck in all of the planning of your next event. It’s not impossible to host an event plastic free. On a smaller scale, say a family event, it might be what you’re doing already, I hope that this post inspires you to expand that to bigger community events. The Busan Veggie Fest had around 30 guests and not a single plastic utensil or bottle was provided for them.

How have your plastic free events gone?